|Posted on May 18, 2018 at 4:55 AM|
I was listening to a programme on the radio about Hypochondria and it reminded me of this poem I wrote called 'Hypochondriacal'. When I was 28 I had a very nasty virus, which never cleared up and developed in to M.E. I also had severe symtoms of Endometriosis and an underactive thyroid. I was constantly told by doctors I 'was imagining my symptoms', I was 'perfectly well', I 'looked so well', and was made to feel neurotic and a nuisance, though I knew something was wrong with me. After 4 years I was eventually rushed into hospital as an emergency for surgery for Endometriosis and 6 years later after that I had a hysterectomy for the condition. It took a change of doctor and 7 years before I was given a diagnosis of M.E. (and Fibromyalgia) and 11 years for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism after a test survey conducted through the Endometriosis Society, of which I was a member and I ran a group in Nottingham for women with the condition.
I was also a contact for women with M.E. and Endometriosis through Action for M.E. for a number of years. I created the cartoons for the Endometriosis Society Newsletter for several years and I have included one below entitled 'The Doctor's Appointment - a.m.' regarding my treatment by doctors! It could also be entitled 'Dr Superficial'! You can also follow this link to see an article by me on the M.E. support website entitled 'Endometriosis and M.E.' @ https://www.mesupport.co.uk/index.php?page=endometriosis-me
“The best seller in my conjunctive eyes
is the inedible medical dictionary
lying at my swollen right hand –
it’s very difficult to swallow.
I turn, with the encumbrance
of a new plaster cast,
to the page about ‘ears’.
My hearing is not too sharp today.
A foreign body, I’m sure,
is lodged there, talking incoherently.
My tongue is numb.
Pins and needles sew up my jaw
and my neck is starched-collar stiff.
Something is telling the muscles in my back
to weld steel plates.
My breath finds it hard to fill lungs
once balloons, now bellows.
Of course my heart beats,
but it skips to an unfamiliar tune.
My abdomen gurgles with reminiscences
of vindaloo and my bowels, well –
their syndrome is irritated
to the point of anger.
My thighs are attached to my knees.
(Thank goodness something works!)
But seven seas of cod liver oil
can’t mask the creak when I bend
to pick up a BUPA note
fallen at my flat feet, which says:
‘You’re a marvellous creation –
We want you to stay that way.’ “
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on April 11, 2018 at 6:00 AM|
It seems a long, grey Winter with no release into Spring and today it is 9c with a strong wind from the North East with dark, glowering rain clouds and misty drizzle. I am hoping this poem with bring about a change and that we will see Spring very soon. Our hundred year old pear tree is not yet in blossom and usually is full of white fragrant flowers on my birthday at the beginning of April.
wedded to spring
greening its cloth
across lands and fields
to meadows of warmth
doused in cowslips
beyond which clouds curve
over arc of blue
ringed with sun
© Vivien Steels
Published in A TIME OF REFLECTION (anthology) – Anchor Books 2007
Below is a photograph of our garden on 6th April last year and it is full of blossom and flowers.
|Posted on December 26, 2017 at 4:10 AM|
Ribbon of white leaves
whips from blanketed bush.
Winter blows last life into garden
where squirrel forages in evergreens,
magpie jumps up and down on deserted greenhouse,
ringed dove sips from mirrored birdbath,
hedge sparrow hops in between bowing plants
chased by belligerent blackbird,
white snow-feather flashing in his tail.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Earth Love – Issue 30 Feb 2009
(photo of blackbird with white tail & wing feather)
|Posted on October 28, 2017 at 6:40 AM|
My Tribute to My Lovely Sister, Alison read by me at her funeral on 24th October 2017
Alison was my lovely big older sister. When we were young she liked to look after me. She was always the well-behaved one & I was the naughty one. She did very well at school. When we moved to Woodthorpe in 1957, we attended Arno Vale Junior School and then Arnold High School where Alison became Head Girl. She also got a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Guiding.
‘Alison & I on holiday at Bexhill-on-Sea 1959'
We had a lovely childhood in Woodthorpe with my mother, Marjorie and my father, Reg Gath. Behind our house on Coningsby Gardens East, across Melbury Road, there were the rolling, grassy hills of Breckhill Fields. Now it is all built upon and called Longacre, but then it was the ideal place to build dens, play cowboys and Indians, arrange sports and races, collect wild berries and wild flowers, toboggan down the snow-covered, steep tracks or feed the horses kept in one part of the fields.
Alison left Nottingham to go to a Teacher Training College in Manchester and became a Deputy Head Teacher in Domestic Science. Sadly my lovely father died from leukaemia in 1970. Alison married Keith and had one son, Alexander, whom she loved very much. Unfortunately, the marriage broke down. Alison became very distressed and returned to Nottingham (after being in Australia for a year) where she stayed with my lovely mother, Marjorie. Ian and I saw a lot of her and also of Alexander then, when he came to stay in the holidays.
Eventually my mother had to move into a Warden-aided flat in 2000 & Alison went to a secure flat complex in Arnold. I sometimes bumped into her in Arnold and had a chat with her, but she never wanted to meet up. She became more and more reclusive and shunned contact with people she knew. This last year Alison became very ill and was in and out of hospital and she passed away on 7th October.
I am so sad at the death of my older sister, Alison, and always think of her with love & affection. I am a Christian, albeit an unconventional one, but I firmly believe Alison is in Heaven with God and his Angels, surrounded by love and people who love her, being healed of her illnesses. I send her my love and prayers every day.
Years ago, when Alison was very upset and depressed, I sent her a card with a blessing inside, which she said comforted her very much. I ended my tribute to Alison with the same ancient Jewish Old Testament blessing,
“The Lord bless you & keep you,
The Lord make his face to shine upon you & be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you,
And give you Peace.”
“Bless You, Alison.”
Vivien Steels 12.10.17
My Lovely Sister, Alison
1st January 1950 - 7th October 2017
|Posted on October 14, 2017 at 10:25 AM|
My Fairy Garden
I have recently made a fairy garden in a wooden plant box, which sits on a window sill in my conservatory. They are such fun to make. I am hoping to make a bigger one outside in our garden, though we have some very naughty squirrels, who I think would dig it up!!
|Posted on September 26, 2017 at 10:00 AM|
I have just read Steve Jamieson's wonderful book ‘Bilbo the Lifeguard Dog’ (published by Pan Macmillan) and I am just recovering from being in floods of tears at the end. I felt so much for Steve, the former Head Lifeguard on Sennen Beach in Cornwall. I know that awful heartbreak when a much loved animal and companion dies. He had such a strong bond with Bilbo and was with him every day. I am an inveterate animal lover and have cats and rabbits as pets, but I love dogs too. At the moment we have a lovely cat called Mittens, who is 11 years old. My beautiful rabbit, Shadow, died 2 years ago.
In September 2008, my husband, Ian, and I visited Cornwall and went to Sennen Beach. I had heard all about Bilbo and went up to the Lifeguard Station where Bilbo was standing. As I neared the platform he was sitting on, I asked if I could stroke him and take a photo of him. He moved forward and gently touched noses with me!! Then I took some photos of him. This is one I took of him when Bilbo would have been about 5.
Bilbo made such an impact on me at the time and reading this book was so enlightening and enjoyable (albeit very sad at the end). I am now considering owning a Newfoundland in the future. I am hoping that my future dog will become a 'Pets as Therapy' dog, so I can take him, or her, into care homes, hospitals and hospices, enabling people to enjoy the wonderful healing contact that an animal brings.
by Vivien Steels
|Posted on July 28, 2017 at 3:00 AM|
Getting Older is...
caring for those before you,
caring for those after you.
Feeling needed, for meals,
for advice, for money,
so the slow drip of time,
wearing away your face
into that of your mother’s,
eases you onto the path
whereby you wear your skin
like an evening dress –
glittering with experience.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Reflections (Forward Poetry Anthology) – January 2012
|Posted on June 23, 2017 at 4:00 AM|
I have included this poem I wrote in 2002, because I was watching '50 Years of Gardeners' World Live' at the NEC Birmingham on television and there was a sequence about gardening through the decades, which my poem tried/tries to evoke. It is illustrated with a picture I painted of a corner of our garden in early summer painted in watercolour, acrylic and pen and ink.
50 Year Plot
Simple strip of lawn parallel to washing line
hosts birdbath bordered by rockery
restructured with soil from pond, below.
Paddling pool decorates grass kept weedfree
with shedful of chemical warfare,
as holidays are spent deck-chaired, fenced in.
Crazy paving shifts its mad design
to slab patios where recliners and parasols,
gaudy as daisies, mimic the Mediterranean package
as summer tries to erupt in Britain.
Our dream garden – a fern-green forest to worship,
emerges in terraces sloping in waves
down to blue, iris-fringed water.
Suburbia grows spikes of heathers and conifers,
low maintenance, indelible colour and height for all seasons,
while travel inspires natural groves,
wildernesses, seas of grasses, wildlife havens
to clash with rows of formality
and pop-art sculptures branching out
from unexpected pastures.
Cottage garden is cornered by beehive compost bin,
confusing bees drawn by scent and colour from butterfly border
linking loveseat under rose-entwined arbour
with avenue of borders overflowing drifts of perennials
and pergola clothed with clinging clematis
beyond stream singing its aria.
Makeover requires decking spreading its gangplanks
through vista to distant wild meadow,
set off by pebbles, palms and Arabian pots hosting trees.
Raised beds laugh with vegetables interspersed with herbs
behind trellis, painted blue, embroidering boundaries.
Conservatory - all blinds, designer furniture and mirrors -
becomes the stargate between house and garden.
2000 and Beyond
Gazebo winks at barbecue entertaining flames
beyond which water feature parasols its fountain
while patio heaters, sparking with avenues of light,
reveal time and space as precious commodities
to be bought and sold in plots
by the highest bidder.
© Vivien Steels
Published in WRITE-AWAY - Summer 2000, WRITE-AWAY Special Edition – January 2003,
*PROMISE* - first collection of published poems/colour illustrations designed/printed by Vivien Steels/Vivi*Press – June 2003
& IMAGENATION Vol 6 – Jan 2004
Illustrated with 'Our Garden - Early Summer' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on April 17, 2017 at 6:05 AM|
cherry blossom falls
filling sky with confetti
© Vivien Steels
Published in WRITE-AWAY - Spring 2002
Illustrated with 'Spring Blossom' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:55 AM|
sky – grey cardboard
earth – frosted brown
trees – bare branches
grass – dank tangle
wind – ice shards
room – soft lights
windows – green leaves
fire – living flames
rug – sheep’s wool
vase – golden stars
© Vivien Steels
Published in PANDA 17 – January 2004
Illustrated with 'Winter Forsythia' © Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:45 AM|
New Year's Moon
whole tablet of silver ~
wakes my bed,
draws me to a land outside,
and sprinkles my body
Crystal chips of stars
wink at me
while my body-warmth
rises like incense
into the half-lit sky
so blue, so vast;
an ocean of planets
Climbing stairs back to sleep,
meeting warmth again on the landing,
I fall back into soft white sheets
holding their drowsy heat,
until my limbs sing too loud
and long for the cool
of the New Year’s moon
waxing full onto
a watchful garden
travelling to foreign fields
cast in alien shadows.
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:40 AM|
REVIEW FOR NEW POETRY BOOK
*Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees* by Vivien Steels
Review by Patricia Beeton
“I have just read your new book of poems ‘Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees’. What a lovely collection of poems they are. The poems are a pleasure to read. Your words show a heartfelt, philosophical understanding of all aspects of nature and human emotion. Reading your poem 'Honey, about your pet rabbit, brought a tear to my eye. What a lovely tribute to him and a recognisable mixture of emotions for all of us who have lost a beloved pet. When I started to read your poem 'Everlasting' it instantly reminded me of my mother. Sweet peas were her favourite flower and whenever they are seen or mentioned I see her, so it was funny to realise as I read your poem that you too are reminded of your mother. You not only produce such lovely words, but are able to illustrate them with such beautiful artwork.”
'Stonechat on Gorse' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:20 AM|
This is the cover of my latest seventh collection of published nature-inspired poems with artwork, photographs and graphics. It can be bought via my Vivi*Press Poetry page on my 'Talking Paint' website @ http://www.talkingpaint.co.uk or get in touch via the Contact page of this website.
I do hope you like it.
|Posted on December 20, 2016 at 2:00 AM|
This is a larger view of the cover illustration for my new illustrated poetry book, 'Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees'. It was painted from the kitchen window of our last house when I was recovering from an operation. You can see I am looking through the ornaments/pots on the kitchen window sill and at the top is the blind with a cord hanging down through the painting. For the book illustration I have added certain graphics, including a bee, butterflies, a goldfish, a hedgehog, a bird, watering can, two fountains and a lookalike, superimposed cat over my cat, Miffy, who can be seen sitting on the edge of the pond. As it was painted in the summertime, you can see that the greenhouse is full of tomato plants and the lawn looks like it is quite long and needs mowing. Whenever I look at this painting which hangs in our lounge, I am transported back to the late 80s and although it was started in 1989, I didn't actually complete it until 1999.
|Posted on October 21, 2016 at 4:35 AM|
Into The Past
The Auckland Guest House green and cream
Set within my childhood dream,
Rope-swing falls from towering tree,
Lawn, coloured mallets, balls and croquet.
Miss Sammy, half-Persian, half-Siamese,
Loves a cuddle, loves strong cheese.
Bess, black Labrador with solemn face
Waddles in dining room from place to place
For titbits, gravy, crumbs of cake.
She waddles out still on the make.
Room is airy, walls slope away.
I wonder what we’ll do today?
Garden, breakfast, piano, beach then swim.
My Dad is funny; I play with him
Amongst the waves, silvery-blue and winking,
My rubber ring and his arms stop me sinking.
Ice cream call – Split or 99?
I don’t mind – the one without sand is mine!
We eat our picnic on the beach
Sandwiches, pasties, fresh ripe peach.
My arms are brown, legs are too,
Dad is red, swimming trunks blue.
We wander back to the Lovell’s house
To wash and dress to be ready for tea.
Or is it dinner? My dress feels fussy
After shorts and tee-shirt by the sea.
Evening falls soft as dust.
We all dress up, the show’s a must.
We send a box round finally,
The guests cough up – it’s for charity.
Bedtime comes, the stars appear.
It’s bath, then bed –
Hope we come here next year.
© Vivien Steels
Published in REFLECTIONS: A COLLECTION OF POETRY (Forward Poetry Anthology) – January 2012
Our favourite holidays were spent in Bexhill-on-Sea at the Auckland Guest House run by Mr and Mrs Lovell. We had many happy family holidays there in the 1960s with my mother and father and my sister, Alison. I wrote this poem about one holiday there in 1961, which refers to Miss Sammy, the half-Persian, half-Siamese cat I loved, whose photograph is below.
|Posted on October 21, 2016 at 3:55 AM|
My Semi-Suburban Country Childhood
Although I was brought up in a relatively new suburban area called Woodthorpe about four miles from the centre of Nottingham, I felt as if I lived in the country. The road in front of our house was a terracotta clay track with grassy verges and convenient humps – ideal when cycling or roller-skating – and there was a deep crater at the bottom of the road, which was euphemistically called ‘Coningsby Gardens East’* (there was no West). After a downpour it filled with red, cloudy water to a depth that covered the tops of your Wellingtons, when you floated your boat on it.
Opposite our house was a piece of lush, green wasteground covered in wild flowers and a large, fallen tree trunk called ‘The Log’, used as a meeting place for the groups of children, who arranged to play there. When this land eventually began to be used for building houses by a local property developer, we used the foundations of the new buildings as playgrounds. Planks of wood balanced across low walls provided splendid make-shift see-saws and we devised games based on hopscotch, which utilised the different, mapped-out rooms of the house-to-be.
Behind our house, across Melbury Road, there were the rolling, grassy hills of Breckhill (Hilly) Fields. Here was the ideal place to build dens, play cowboys and Indians, arrange sports and races, collect wild berries, toboggan down the snow-covered, steep tracks or feed the horses kept in one part of the fields.
I knew the two girls, who used to help look after the horses. Rosamund, the youngest, said that I could ride them if I wanted to, as she knew I was an animal lover. I rode one large chestnut horse and thinking I had mastered that in half an hour, I decided to try cantering bareback, circus-style on a smaller, black horse and, yes, I fell off and broke my arm badly at the elbow.
Breckhill Fields stretched out like a country all of its own, changing its customs with the turn of time. In winter (my favourite season) after a heavy snowfall, everyone from roundabout would emerge wrapped in woolly hats, scarves and gloves pulling their sledges, which ranged from tin trays to the most sophisticated pine toboggans. The man next door, Mr Fenn, made me a sledge – a simple, wooden affair with a rope handle but to me it was lovely. I used to conscientiously wax the metal runners made from piping with a candle and it really did speed down the numerous slopes including the notorious ‘Death Track’. This was the longest, steepest and most dangerous track, as it ended in a line of trees and a cut-off tree trunk, so you had to be very careful to swerve out of the way, if you could not stop. One boy died from head injuries after he failed to stop and that is how the run got its name.
Autumn brought a crop of delicious wild blackberries, raspberries and elderberries. I used to go picking with my own small gardening trug and kept going back for refills, returning home with hands and lips stained magenta, having eaten nearly as much as I collected. Mr Fenn also had a substantial collection of damson trees, from which he gave us baskets of fruit to be made into deep purple jam.
In summer the wild flowers flourished as on meadowland and I was a keen naturalist. I owned books on birds, animals, insects and wildflowers and when not being a Red Indian in a wigwam (I always took the Indian’s side), I would wonder at and try to identify the profusion of wildlife around me.
I loved animals and for my eighth birthday my father bought me a beautiful, soft-grey Chinchilla rabbit, which we chose from a stall on the old, open Nottingham Market on Huntingdon Street. Hoppy was the rabbit that came up and nudged my hand as if to say ‘Please choose me.’ He had the run of the garden and the house, but sometimes would set off on adventures and was once seen hot-pawing it up to Breckhill Fields, doing daring zig-zags and leaps to chase off the ensuing dog from down the road. We rescued him and he was none the worse for his ‘dicing with death’. (Read Hoppy's full story on ‘Talking Paint’ @ http://viviensteels.webs.com/mypetsplace.htm)
Now the area is quite built up. Gone is the wasteground and ‘The Log’ and Breckhill Fields, my early experience of the countryside, is smothered with houses and called ‘Long Acre’.
© Vivien Steels
A smaller, much-edited version of this article appeared in the Basford Bystander 177 - August/September 2016
* Just as a point of interest, Coningsby Gardens East was originally part of the land on which Swinehouse Farm and its orchard, which contained damson trees, formerly existed. Swinehouse Farm is mentioned by D H Lawrence in his book ‘Sons and Lovers’. In the book he (Paul Morel) walks down from Mapperley Plains (at the top of Breckhill Fields) to see Miriam Leivers at the farm and she taught in West Bridgford, Nottingham.
Below is a black and white picture postcard photograph from ARNOLD – in old picture postcards by Ken Negus (‘YESTERDAY’S NOTTINGHAMSHIRE’ series no: 14 - 1991). It was taken at about 1900 with the photographers back to Mapperley Plains with Breckhill Road to the left out of the picture. Long Acre approximates to the footpath as does Coningsby Gardens East and Coningsby Road, the hedge being the boundary of Melbury Road. This area was know as Breckhill (Hilly) Fields. You can make out the farm below to the left, which would approximate to the bottom of Coningsby Gardens East.
|Posted on August 22, 2016 at 6:20 AM|
Twisted church spire watches
over brown ridged field
where snow, soft as fur,
nestles in furrows like leverets.
Ink black trees light up from behind
with gold/orange sunset.
Cold kisses my face
leaving rosy imprints.
The road, white with salty sheen,
sings under racing car,
as day sinks under banks
of snow-swollen clouds.
© Vivien Steels
Published in THE GREAT BRITISH WRITE-OFF – ACROSS ENGLAND - Anthology [Forward Poetry Press] – November 2015
I've included this wintry poem as it was written on the way home from Sunday lunch at Langar Hall (see last post below).
|Posted on July 7, 2016 at 7:55 PM|
Imogen Skirving, owner of Langar Hall Country House Hotel in Nottinghamshire, was killed recently while on holiday in Menorca. Imogen was an absolutely special and wonderfully unique person, who made you feel special. She always made sure you were looked after at Langar Hall and was so interesting to talk with. Ian and I go every few weeks for Sunday Lunch at Langar Hall and we loved Imogen, her staff and the whole atmosphere created there. Nothing was too much trouble. We are so very upset and will miss her dreadfully. As someone pointed out, it will not be the same without her. I bought her wonderful book, 'The Reluctant Restaurateur', which she personally signed for me and which I shall treasure. Ian and I are thinking of her staff and all her family at this terribly sad time. I wrote this poem for Imogen not long after hearing about her death.
You never know
how much you will miss someone
until they leave this life
with sunlit reveries
brings ease of mind
as memories tiptoe
up tree-lined paths
past sheep, cotton-wool white
in green-dappled fields
wrapping arms round
an orange-washed hall
where dreams of people
sleep and eat
in gilded rooms
floating amongst the tables
talking with friends
taking food orders
your kindness mixed with
like a good meal
your love of adventure
mixed with a sensibility
about who we are
giving hospitality to pilgrims
as they walk through
now walking into
your new life
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on May 22, 2016 at 2:45 AM|
The corner turned,
turquoise water overhung
with soft, green willow
surrounds the April nest
barricaded with branches
to make an inner island
of safety for Easter eggs;
green-white and so large,
to be turned to perfection
at unusual angles.
We counted seven cygnets that year.
flimsy yet watertight,
nibbled along with young weed,
riding under arch-angel wings.
The cob glides back.
Beaks touch, necks ‘S’
throwing down heart reflections
like white confetti.
Snake-skin feet stroke
cool blue water,
the corner turned
then out of view.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Green Vibrations Anthology (Peace & Freedom Press) - Winter 2003/04
Illustrated with 'Mute Swan Bowing' - original photograph by Vivi Steels
|Posted on March 26, 2016 at 5:10 AM|
of vermilion tulips
aiming to fire scarlet
into the sharp grey sky
of spring deferred
© Vivien Steels
Illustrated with 'Vermilion Tulips'
* * *
Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter